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James J. Cowan Scholarship provides opportunities for nontraditional veteran students at Tennessee Tech

James J. CowanJames “Jimmy” Cowan’s college journey didn’t follow a traditional path. In fact, it took Jimmy 30 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree. But through persistence, perseverance and passion, Jimmy received his bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Tech’s College of Interdisciplinary Studies (CoIS) in December 2019.  

Jimmy passed away less than a year later, on July 22, 2020, at the age of 52. His wife Dylcia and their son Hayden have chosen to honor his memory through a scholarship in his name. They hope that the James J. Cowan Scholarship for Nontraditional Veteran Students will provide opportunities for other students whose college journeys may look a bit different.  

“Jimmy was always a dreamer,” Dylcia said. “So much so that he didn’t really live up to his potential in school. But he lived a full life in his 52 short years, living every day to the fullest. One of his proudest moments was hearing ‘James Joel Cowan, Cum Laude’ over the loudspeaker at his commencement ceremony.”

Jimmy joined the Navy immediately after high school where he served as an electronics warfare technician and furthered his passion for electronics. He soon decided that he might want to earn a college degree after all, but it would be 25 years before he would earn his associate’s degree in graphic arts, and another five years before he received his bachelor’s degree from Tech.

While enrolled at Tech, Jimmy worked fulltime and traveled four hours roundtrip each day for his job. But the CoIS worked with Jimmy to develop a curriculum that accommodated his work schedule.

“As with anything Jimmy did, once he was bitten by the bug to get his degree, he was hooked and did it to the best of his ability, making the dean’s list every semester,” Dylcia said. “But Jimmy’s journey was not easy, financially-speaking. He was not eligible for any type of financial aid through the government as a veteran, having been out of the Navy for more than 10 years when he decided to enroll. Because of this, Hayden and I believe he would love that we are now carrying on his legacy by offering qualified students the chance to continue their education through this scholarship.”

Dylcia serves as an administrative associate for Tech’s CoIS and says it was only natural to designate the scholarship for CoIS students – a place that supported her in the months following Jimmy’s death and a college that meant so much to her husband. Dylcia says she hopes future students will have the opportunity, just like Jimmy did, to hear their name read at a commencement ceremony – regardless of their age or how many years it takes to reach that milestone.

The James J. Cowan Scholarship for Nontraditional Veteran Students is awarded to student veterans who have been honorably discharged for five years and are majoring in the College of Interdisciplinary Studies. While the scholarship is funded for the next five years, Dylcia and Hayden hope to assist additional students. To make a gift, visit or mail a check to Tennessee Tech, Box 1915, Cookeville, TN 38505, and indicate that the gift is for the James J. Cowan Scholarship.

“Jimmy was a beloved son, brother and uncle,” Dylcia said. “He was also an adored husband and father. We can now add philanthropist to his many titles. We know that he would be proud to help students earn their degrees and be on their way to brighter futures.”

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